Zahid takes an oath, denies ever knowing gambling kingpin Paul Phua

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KUALA LUMPUR (Mar 25): Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi took a religious oath today to stress that he does not know Paul Phua Wei Seng nor had he enjoyed any benefit from the gambling kingpin.

The home minister who is still being severely criticised for writing a support letter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), vouching for Phua, said he never had any contact with the former Macau casino junket operator.

Phua is facing illegal sports betting charges in Las Vegas after being arrested during last year's FIFA World Cup football tournament in Brazil.

"As a Muslim, Wallahi Wabillahi Watallahi, I have never received a single sen from the gambler. In fact I was never involved with the person or any form of illegal money," he said in his winding up speech on the Royal address in Parliament yesterday.

In his letter dated December 14, 2014, Zahid had said Putrajaya continued to call upon Phua to assist the government from time to time and as such, Putrajaya was eager for him to return to Malaysia.

Zahid had since come under fire for writing the letter, which was exposed by the South China Morning Post (SCMP) on December 31 last year.

Umno lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah had previously defended Zahid's actions, saying that his firm was engaged by US legal firm Chesnoff & Schonfeld to assist in Phua's case.

Shafee's legal firm and Chesnoff & Schonfeld wrote a letter to the Home Minister requesting his assistance to share any information directly with the FBI.

Zahid said the letter between him and the FBI was not meant for public eyes and accused those who leaked the contents of the letter as irresponsible, and said it was aimed at smearing his reputation.

"The letter is a government document. It is private and confidential," he said, adding that the police is investigating this and warned that action will be taken against those who leaked it.

He reiterated that he wrote the letter after receiving a request from both Shafee's firm and Chesnoff & Schonfeld who had wanted to ascertain if Phua was a member of and associated with Hong Kong’s 14K Triad.

"We found that he was not part of 14K Triad and the triad also does not exist in Malaysia. This was conveyed to the FBI in the letter," he said, adding that the contents of the letter did not state his support for Phua.

He said from time to time, the ministry receives applications from various foreign governments' agencies requesting checks on Malaysians for security purposes.

There are also agreements between Malaysia and foreign countries, including the US, which allows for exchange of information between the governments and their related agencies.